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Three Leadership Skills Businesses Can Learn from the Political Campaign

March 6th, 2012 by Maggie Walsh

Voters in 10 states will head to the polls today to cast their ballots in the Republican presidential primary. Known as Super Tuesday, the 2012 Grand Old Party race features more than 400 delegates and four candidates.

As the candidates square off, we can take some lessons about good leadership from the campaign trail:

  1. Don’t Be Political, but Do Know What People Care About. Like the candidates, leaders need to know the hot-button issues that people care the most about. What are the people in your company most anxious about, and what do they need direction on? Provide that direction, get those resources, but avoid posturing and manipulation—it causes trouble and mistrust. There will be politics, but, as John Bell, former CEO of Jacobs Suchard (Nabob, Kraft) said, “Deal with politics, but don’t be political.”
  2. Don’t Pander, Be Authentic. Leaders don’t have to kiss babies to show that they can connect with regular people. But they do need to use emotional intelligence. It’s important to be likable, to actually listen to employees, not just act as though you are, and to show that you care. That’s how good leaders garner followers.
  3. Don’t Peddle Your Influence, Align Your Interests. Politics is often about trading on quid pro quo relationships —and using one’s “influence” to get votes. In business, leaders must “lead with influence,” which Forum defines not as “influence peddling,” but as “the ability to generate results collaboratively, in a variety of contexts, without direct or positional authority.” Leaders must understand the importance of authentic relationships and actively seek to align interests with people at all levels inside and outside the organization around shared goals. If they can’t do that, they will go nowhere.

 

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Maggie Walsh

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